Thursday, June 25, 2009

fear of reciprocity

Crazy Michelle Bachmann, in the full flower of craziness while discussing her super-crazy refusal to fill out her census form:

"Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps," said Bachmann. "I'm not saying that that's what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps."

That's pretty crazy. So crazy, in fact, that my first instinct is to laugh at Congress' own crazy cat lady and move on. Weird as it sounds, though, I don't think such a dismissal would do as much good as trying to unpack this nonsense and see what she's trying to say.

So, what is she trying to say? What's the lesson of "American history between 1942 and 1947?" It's hard because she's dancing around it, hiding her real meaning so that only people prone to thinking like her are going to catch it, and even then it's probably less purely "dog whistle" than tickling an inchoate fear. It sounds to me like she's saying that the federal government is going to be tempted to start throwing people back in internment camps or otherwise severely hampering their freedom of action. I don't think there's any other direction she could go with this argument.

But who are the ones that will be targeted? Who are Michelle Bachmann's Japanese? It isn't Americans in general, or women, or politicians, or Minnesotans; it's white conservatives. She's saying she thinks there's a not insignificant chance that President Obama is going to start cracking down on white conservatives by tapping their phones, infiltrating their groups and clubs, building dossiers on them, and perhaps eventually moving to more overt forms of oppression like ghettoizing and interning.

Her choice to bring up the internment of a particular disadvantaged, powerless ethnic group is meant to be analogous to the oldest bogeyman of white America: the reversal of power to black people and retributive oppression of white people. In Bachmann's crazy, crazy world, white people are like the World War II Japanese Americans: an innocent, put upon, utterly powerless minority being ruthlessly harassed by a tyrannical Democratic president, except this one's been waiting for a long time to put those white people in their place. In her mind, black people live their lives just aching for the chance to finally get back at white people for all those things that happened in the past. All black people are just Panthers, gangsters, and Nation of Islam brothers in disguise, and they've finally set the perfect trap: a smiling, well-spoken, articulate black man who'll con all the bleeding-heart, guilt-ridden, weak-minded liberals to vote for him, allowing him to slowly implement Operation: Kill Whitey.

After all, it's what white people have looking for in Obama since he first started running for president. What were the early scandals and bad press episodes for Barack Obama? He's a Muslim. Jeremiah Wright saying "God damn America." Michelle supposedly saying "whitey let Katrina happen" (in a meeting with Louis Farrakhan, no less!). Manchurian candidate. William Ayers. Tim Russert spontaneously asking Obama to answer for comments made by Louis Farrakhan and Harry Belafonte in the debates. Obama in traditional Kenyan garb. The birth certificate. The Anti-Christ.

Crazy Michelle's point is much uglier than it first appears.

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